Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss and blindness in the elderly population of India. It is an eye condition that affects the central part of the eye known as the macula, a yellowish oval-shaped area near the middle of the retina where the vision is keenest.
What are the Causes of
Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
As its name suggests, there is a close correlation between ageing and AMD, but genetic and environmental factors are also thought to play a role in the chances of developing the condition. Some drugs are associated with AMD, such as chloroquine or phenothiazine derivatives, thioridazine, fluphenazine, perphenazine and trifluoperazine.
Early AMD is believed to be caused by retinal cells becoming less efficient at performing their tasks and little white spots known as drusen can occur in the retina. Other causes of AMD are thought to be inflammation resulting from oxidative stress; a molecular imbalance that can be caused by a number of factors such as bright light, an unhealthy diet with insufficient antioxidants, and too high levels of iron in the retina.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
You might not notice any signs or symptoms of AMD in its early stages, especially if it only impacts one eye. AMD is also painless so it is easy not to realise that anything is wrong with your vision.
This is why it is very important to have regular eye examinations throughout your life, but particularly once over the age of 40. An optician will be able to notice early indications of AMD before the first symptoms become apparent.
Two Types of AMD - WET & DRY
DRY Macular Degeneration
The DRY Macular Degeneration is by far the most common, affecting 90% of those diagnosed with AMD. In the initial stages, the dry type of AMD frequently causes blurred central vision, affecting both near and distant vision. The centre of your vision may appear darkened or fuzzy, and this area expands as the disease develops. Blind spots may also appear and most patients struggle to see colour and details.
WET Macular Degenration
TWet macular degeneration features the same symptoms as dry and the patient additionally sees straight lines as wavy. This is the more severe form of the condition and central vision loss often occurs at a much faster rate.
How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Diagnosed?
There are many different tests that can be used to diagnosed AMD by an optometrist or optician who will usually perform several of the following diagnostic tests:
- Autofluorescence - this is a technique that is used to measure the geographic atrophy of the retina in patients with dry AMD.
- Dilating the pupils with eye drops allows the doctor to examine the eyes for signs of retinal deterioration or damage to the optic nerve.
- Fundoscopy or ophthalmoscopy involves the optician directing a bright beam of light into several areas of the eye after dilation to check for any worrying symptoms.
A visual acuity test measures the strength of the patient's eyesight. Tonometry - a test which measures the pressure of the eye.
Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
There is no cure for AMD but visual aids may help to improve vision and reduce its impact on your everyday life. Patients with wet AMD may benefit from a regular course of anti-angiogenic drugs to prevent further deterioration and occasionally a treatment known as photodynamic therapy.
Prevention For Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
One of the most effective things you can do to reduce the risk of developing AMD is to stop smoking. Other steps that can help prevent AMD are taking regular exercise, eating a healthy diet rich in dark green vegetables, orange and yellow fruit and whole grains; maintaining a low cholesterol level and low blood pressure.
When is surgery needed for
Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Laser surgery has been used to treat AMD but is more often an option for wet AMD. However, experimental surgical methods are being developed to treat AMD, such as submacular surgery which involves a surgeon removing the affected blood vessels and scar tissue and retinal translocation.
Aftercare for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Surgery?
Your treating surgeon will advise you on surgery aftercare, but common advice is to avoid bright light, rest your eyes as much as possible and wearing sunglasses on the journey home.